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Double-stranded RNA bending by AU-tract sequences


Abstract

Sequence-dependent structural deformations of the DNA double helix (dsDNA) have been extensively studied, where adenine tracts (A-tracts) provide a striking example for global bending in the molecule. However, in contrast to dsDNA, sequence-dependent structural features of dsRNA have received little attention. In this work, we demonstrate that the nucleotide sequence can induce a bend in a canonical Watson-Crick base-paired dsRNA helix. Using all-atom molecular dynamics simulations, we identified a sequence motif consisting of alternating adenines and uracils, or AU-tracts, that strongly bend the RNA double-helix. This finding was experimentally validated using atomic force microscopy imaging of dsRNA molecules designed to display macroscopic curvature via repetitions of phased AU-tract motifs. At the atomic level, this novel phenomenon originates from a localized compression of the dsRNA major groove and a large propeller twist at the position of the AU-tract. Moreover, the magnitude of the bending can be modulated by changing the length of the AU-tract. Altogether, our results demonstrate the possibility of modifying the dsRNA curvature by means of its nucleotide sequence, which may be exploited in the emerging field of RNA nanotechnology and might also constitute a natural mechanism for proteins to achieve recognition of specific dsRNA sequences.

Abstract

Sequence-dependent structural deformations of the DNA double helix (dsDNA) have been extensively studied, where adenine tracts (A-tracts) provide a striking example for global bending in the molecule. However, in contrast to dsDNA, sequence-dependent structural features of dsRNA have received little attention. In this work, we demonstrate that the nucleotide sequence can induce a bend in a canonical Watson-Crick base-paired dsRNA helix. Using all-atom molecular dynamics simulations, we identified a sequence motif consisting of alternating adenines and uracils, or AU-tracts, that strongly bend the RNA double-helix. This finding was experimentally validated using atomic force microscopy imaging of dsRNA molecules designed to display macroscopic curvature via repetitions of phased AU-tract motifs. At the atomic level, this novel phenomenon originates from a localized compression of the dsRNA major groove and a large propeller twist at the position of the AU-tract. Moreover, the magnitude of the bending can be modulated by changing the length of the AU-tract. Altogether, our results demonstrate the possibility of modifying the dsRNA curvature by means of its nucleotide sequence, which may be exploited in the emerging field of RNA nanotechnology and might also constitute a natural mechanism for proteins to achieve recognition of specific dsRNA sequences.

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Additional indexing

Item Type:Journal Article, refereed, original work
Communities & Collections:07 Faculty of Science > Institute of Molecular Life Sciences
Dewey Decimal Classification:570 Life sciences; biology
Uncontrolled Keywords:Genetics
Language:English
Date:16 December 2020
Deposited On:02 Dec 2020 10:31
Last Modified:01 Jan 2021 21:02
Publisher:Oxford University Press
ISSN:0305-1048
OA Status:Gold
Free access at:PubMed ID. An embargo period may apply.
Publisher DOI:https://doi.org/10.1093/nar/gkaa1128
PubMed ID:33245767
Project Information:
  • : FunderH2020
  • : Grant ID681299
  • : Project TitleMechan-of-Chromo - Unfolding the Mechanism of Chromosome Cohesion and Condensation using Single-Molecule Biophysical Approaches

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Content: Published Version
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Licence: Creative Commons: Attribution-NonCommercial 4.0 International (CC BY-NC 4.0)